How Unconscious Reveal Itself In Scribbles: A Classical Method

Chapter 3

A Free Course About Interpretation of Pictures

Institute of Projective Drawings

A Classical Scribble Test

Even more exciting than spontaneous scribbles are the classical scribble methods, in which we ask the respondent to scribble in a predefined way.

The Grätz Scribble Method: Why It Is Our Favourite Technique?

​Try one of the classical methods, namely the Grätz Scribble Technique!

The psychoanalyst Eva Grätz (1978) asked her patients to prepare nonfigurative depictions of specific stimulus words. The method is used as a part of exploratory therapy for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

According to the instruction, the therapist lists a few words and asks the subject

  • to depict the impressions or internal movements
  • elicited by those words
  • using spontaneous lines or shapes
  • that do not depict objects.

Grätz’s Scribble Technique: The client depicts a total of 16 stimulus words with nonfigurative scribbles.

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Required tools: 16 sheets of size A6 plain, white paper (I usually fold a sheet of A4 in half, and then fold that in half again) and a soft pencil.

Required time: 5-10 minutes altogether.

The following instructions should be given:


  1. ”I will say a few words. Please, depict the impression or inner motion you experience in response to the words, using spontaneous lines or shapes that do not depict the objects. You can use one folded cell for each word. "
  2. "When you have done this, faintly write the word on the reverse side of the paper, so that it does not show through.” (modified instruction by Zoltan Vass, 2012)

To make the scribbles we should say the following stimulus words one by one (always waiting for the client to finish before proceeding to the next word):

Stimulus Words:

  1. anger
  2. fear
  3. hate
  4. forgiveness
  5. attraction
  6. jealousy
  7. desire
  8. despair
  1. resistance
  2. safety
  3. aggression
  4. loneliness
  5. a conflict word (chosen by the therapist or the client)
  6. dance
  7. father
  8. mother

Summary: In this method, the subject depicts a total of 16 stimulus words on four A4 sheets of paper nonfiguratively, with scribbles. The sheets are folded in four, resulting in four rectangles on each sheet; the subject uses those to draw.

The order of family drawings

The Graetz Scribble Technique (click to enlarge)

Click on the picture above!

On the left you find the original list of the sixteen stimulus words suggested by Grätz. The bottom two lists of four words are possible versions of the fourth sheet (they feature the patient’s conflict word, chosen by the examiner or, alternatively, a word chosen freely by the subject).

The centre picture shows part of the scribble method of a 21-year-old female. This is a typical scribble in contrast to the next one.

The right picture is a very interesting second sheet of the method of a schizophrenic patient. Instead of abstract scribbles, she used small, identical human figures to depict the concepts. This reaction is called "concretization" (Vass, 2012).

The Two Main Pitfalls – And How To Avoid Them?

Main Pitfall #1: The client does not understand the task or how to scribble.

Solution: Show them a few examples of what a non-figurative scribble means. For example draw the following: "cotton-wool" (circular light doodle) or "glass" (sharp, pointed lines).

Main Pitfall #2: The respondent draws a symbol or pictogram (heart, sun etc.) instead of a nonfigurative scribble.

Solution: Ask them to redraw it but only without making a figurative scribble.

Starting with anger is a good introduction to this scribble method, since it brings out easily very dynamic motor impulses, which gives an initial feeling of success.

Now It's Your Turn

  • Download the instruction sheet below and start experimenting with this technique.
  • Draw your own Graetz-scribbles! In the next chapter you will learn two methods of interpretation.
  • I'm curious to read your comments about this method.


Grätz, E. (1978). Zeichnen aus dem Unbewußten. Stuttgart: Hippokrates.

Vass, Z. (2012). A psychological interpretation of drawings and paintings. The SSCA Method: A Systems Analysis Approach. Budapest: Alexandra.

In the next chapter: The Grätz scribbles reveal, what it is the subject has a problem with, how serious the conflict is and how they combat this. Next time you will learn two interpretation methods!

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Wiener Shlomo

I’m clinical psychologist in Israel and I’m interested in purchasing the ESPD software. Lastly I had a chance to read Prof Zolta Vass’ book thoroughly and I found his system a real breakthrough in the theory of psycho-diagnosis in general.
Is it possible to buy the software so I would be able to use it off-line or is it on-line use only? (most of the time my laptop is not connected to the internet).
Shlomo Wiener

    Institute of Projective Drawings

    Hi Shlomo,

    Thank you for this comment and we are very happy that you find our SSCA system for psychological diagnosis useful.

    The ESPD software is not available anymore. We have a new expert system called ARTIES which is even more intelligent and advanced. Yes, ARTIES needs Internet access.
    See it here:

    I hope you have a great rest of your day!

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